The 1950s Cowgirl

ginger childhood rocking horse cowgirl

Ginger Martin in full cowgirl regalia on a rocking horse made by her dad. Clyde Martin made the small chair in the background too.

We Always Wanted to be Cowboys

This photo of me reminds me of all the fun we had playing cowboys and Indians when we were kids. Primed by all those Roy Rogers and Gene Autry movies, we played for hours riding our imaginary horses.

For the little ones, there were rocking horses, but for outside, we had stick horses with a sock head. If there was no stick horse, it was sufficient to hold one hand in front as though holding imaginary reins. Then we galloped about the yard urging our sure-footed horse faster and faster to escape the Indians or to capture the bad guys.

Back in the fifties, most kids had some cowboy attire to wear. Here’s my brother in his vest and chaps. Quite the little cowpoke, isn’t he. Years later when he returned from the Vietnam War, we saw the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” The grown up Owen looked a lot like Robert Redford in that movie.

1950s little cowboy

Owen Martin with cowboy chaps, gloves, and vest

I also had a cowboy hat. Add to that my holster and toy six-gun, I was the image of Annie Oakley or Dale Evans, at least in my mind. Of course, those heroines of western movies would have worn boots instead of white sandals with anklets.

Owen_and_Ginger_Guess_who_s_being_smart_now._I_ll_bet_these_big

Gail Martin wrote on the back of the photo: “Guess who’s being smart now. I’ll bet these big bad cowboys won’t climb any board fences. I think they’re dancing now.” She’s referring to the fall my brother had from a saddle on a fence which resulted in his broken arm.

You might think we are standing on an old-style television, but it must be a bedside table. We didn’t have a television until I was 13-years-old.

cowboy broken arm

Owen in his bathrobe and sock feet sneaks up on an outlaw. I wonder if the hats and guns were Christmas presents and maybe Mom (Gail) got a Brownie camera too.

Here’s one more photo.

cowboy hat

Little sister, Cindy, clasps a new looking teddy bear. She’s in her footed pajamas and wearing a cowboy hat. Looks like everyone got a hat. 

 

Remember Catching Fireflies?

Childhood memories from Gail’s daughter, Virginia. 

All you need is a jar

Running around the yard at dusk trying to catch fireflies was such fun. My parents relaxed in lawn chairs, while we used up our excess energy. The grass felt cool under our bare feet.

Putting the fireflies in an old peanut-butter jar let us admire our captures and provided a small lantern as the fireflies lighted up. Dad had punched some holes in the lid so the fireflies could breathe.

The lights blinked on and off, keeping us enchanted by their activity. At the end of the evening, we released our captives and headed inside to bed.

Remember Catching Fireflies? Tell us about your childhood memories of summer evenings.

Mom Made Dresses for the Toni Doll

belinda toni in green dress

Toni doll named Belinda wearing the dress made by Gail Lee Martin.

 

 

If you’re old enough, you might remember the Toni doll made by Ideal in the 1950s. The one shown here is my sister’s Toni doll. She named her Belinda.
The Toni doll promoted Toni hair products and the doll had hair that could be styled. Some were ruined when their young owners gave the doll a haircut. Belinda never suffered that indignity and still has her original hair.

Over the years, she did lose part of her eyelashes from one eye and most of the pink in her cheeks was scrubbed away over the years. Somehow she broke the tip off of one finger. Perhaps we dropped her on the sidewalk in a moment of carelessness.

My mother made some old-fashioned dresses for Belinda that have sort of a literary flair. The green dress above makes me think of Jane Austen’s Regency fashions. There’s a blue plaid one that makes me think of Dr. Zhivago and another that reminds me of Scarlett O’Hara’s green dress in Gone with the Wind.

The red dress shown below gets displayed every December as Belinda dresses for the holidays.

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Below is Belinda in the blue dress my mother made for her. I think it gives her a Lara from Dr. Zhivago look. Mom didn’t have any patterns to make the dresses, she just measured and cut and sewed to magically produce a doll dress. It was a secret, so she had to work at odd times on the clothes to have the wardrobe done by Christmas.
Toni doll in blue plaid dress

Toni doll (Belinda) in her blue plaid dress made by Mom.

That was the Christmas that we were all making presents for each other. Can you imagine helping six children make gifts for each other? Where did she find the time to fashion all these outfits for Belinda?

I liked this blue dress a lot, but she also had a Cinderella-style dress of off-white brocade trimmed with lace. That was made with the remnants from our living room curtains.

Belinda the Toni doll

Toni doll under the Christmas tree in her new dress made by Gail Lee Martin.

Here’s Toni in Her Dress Made by My Mother

Sorry, Sis, for showing you in your hair curlers. There’s the Toni doll under the Christmas tree. She’s wearing the ivory satin dress with lace overskirt that Mom made for her. It’s a beautiful outfit that Marie Antoinette would have been proud of.

Did you have a Toni doll? What doll was your favorite?

 

Memories of Barefooted Summers

Written by Gail Martin’s daughter, Virginia.

I grew up in the fifties and sixties. Summers were carefree times of playing in the creek and rambling in the woods and fields. Our feet were bare.

When I look at the old black and white photos, they bring back so many memories. Seeing my age 5 smiling face flirting with the camera takes me back to those happy times.

Madison KS teacher

Ginger and Cindy Martin with the second-grade teacher, Miss Shimp. Madison, KS.

Ginger and Cindy Martin with teacher Miss Shimp

In the photo above, the lady is our older sister’s second-grade teacher from Madison. I’m the curly-headed child on the left. My little sister, Cindy, got to cuddle with the teacher, Miss Shimp, and I was dreadfully jealous. I’m not sure why Susan isn’t there for the photo with her teacher.

Sometimes being barefooted wasn’t fun. For instance, the honey bees loved the clover in our yard. When I stepped on one of those, my poor foot would swell up and throb fiercely. Mom would put baking soda on it and wrap it in a cool damp cloth but little else was done for it. I’d stretch out the situation, whimpering and hobbling around, to get the maximum attention from Mom that I could.

Memories of a 1950s childhood - Ginger Martin

Here I am, little Ginger, with a puppy and a red wagon.

Photo from our family album

The photo above is me at a younger age. Barefooted again and with an armful of puppy. I’m betting that’s a red wagon that I’m sitting on but I don’t remember that far back.

Were you allowed to play outside barefooted in the summer way back when?

M is for Memories of the Flood of 1951

Gail’s children heard the story many times about the great flood that almost swept little Cindy away. The family rented a small house owned by Gail’s parents, Clarence and Ruth McGhee. It was just a quarter mile down the road from the McGhee home. The “little house” was home to Gail and Clyde Martin with their four young children.
Rental house - owned by Clarence McGhee in 1951

The little house that the Martins rented from the McGhees.

As you can see, the house was fairly basic and had a few cinder blocks for the front step. Take a look at the video below and then I’ll tell you the rest of the story.

Apparently, the creek turned into a river rushing across the yard towards the little house. Water surrounded them and they were cut off. Gail’s brother-in-law, Norman Harlan, arrived in a boat to rescue the family. When they opened the door, toddler Cindy stepped out. Fortunately, Norman grabbed her as she came through the door.

Cindy1952

Cindy Martin rescued in the Great Flood of 1951.

She would have been swept away in the floodwaters. The whole family was rescued.

Cj Garriott, Gail’s younger sister, tells about the flood in the Madison area,Some memories I have of the ’51 flood–Perched as our house was on the little hill, we were high and dry as our home and barns were spared. We lost some cows–we tried to get them to the homeplace, and some did get there, but we watched as others were swept downstream.

Even though the railroad tracks were covered with water, a couple of neighbor men were able to walk it to town for supplies.

I remember squatting at the edge of the water, as it inched up our hill, watching grasshoppers getting pushed off grass stalks by the rising water. I wished I could save them.”

McGhee house in Greenwood County KS

The Clarence and Ruth McGhee home on the hill near Madison, KS.

I asked Carol about the history of the houses, and she said, “Daddy bought the 40 acres with a house that needed to be torn down. Then Daddy and Norman built the new one, I believe. I think Melba and Norman lived in it first, while they built a new house on their farm. The little house across the creek that was flooded was rented by Gail and Clyde.”

I Remember Our 1940s Homes

Gail McGhee and Clyde Martin were married by a Christian Church minister formerly of Madison, KS, named Sydney Hawkins. He had been a favorite of Gail’s in her teens. He married the two in his study in Neodesha in 1945. Gail’s parents, Ruth and Clarence McGhee, attended, then drove the newly married couple to Tyro to stay with relatives for the weekend.

Here is Gail’s account of their life together:
We started housekeeping 4 miles south of Madison, 2 miles east, 1/4 miles south on a rented farm called the Long Farm. Clyde had been batching there since his folks had retired and moved to Madison. The farm sold, so we had to move the next winter.

In January 1946, we moved into the Ren Martin homestead back west 1/2 mile. We shared the house with Dorothy (Clyde’s sister) and Orville Stafford who were living there, while they were getting their house in Madison fixed up.

Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1946, our son Owen was born at Newman Memorial Hospital in Emporia. Owen Lee is named after his parent’s middle names. Clyde Owen and Gail Lee. He was called “Butch” for most of his preschool days. A family friend, Haynes Redding, called him that and it stuck, even if great-grandmother McGhee, said it “was a dog’s name.”

Clyde farmed the home place and we had a herd of milk cows. Clyde milked them and we bought several registered Ayrshires. In the summer we teamed up with Haynes and Marion Redding to bale hay for people. I raked the hay into windrows and pile it for the men to fork into the baler. I poked the wires through the bales and Marion would twist the ends together.

When Owen started to school, the Butch nickname was left behind. He went to Madison grade school the first four years, riding the school bus.

When Owen was a year and 8 months old, we had a farm sale.
The winter and spring of 1947 were very wet and mastitis, a dairy disease, got in our herd and we had to sell them as butcher cows. It took us out of the dairy business. The Ayrshires were separate, so we were able to take them to Uncle Jesse’s in Missouri for awhile. We sold them later when they didn’t get the disease.

Clyde's herd of milking cows before the Aryshires_roxio

Clyde Martin’s milk cows – 1940s

Clyde took a job with a dairy in Wellsville, KS. After Susan was born, November 7, 1947, we moved into the small house the boss kept for his help in December 1947.
We moved to an apartment in Wichita while Clyde worked with a crew digging a pipeline. The apartment was in a basement.

By Thanksgiving 1948, we were so homesick that our friends Wayne and Dorothy Baysinger persuaded us to move into the upper story of the farmhouse they had rented. It was five miles south of Madison and was called the “half-way house.” Clyde went to work with Wayne in the oilfield and on various jobs. Our daughter, Virginia was born December 1948.

The summer of 1949, we found a small rental house several miles north of Madison until my Dad bought a three-room house and moved it to a corner of his farm northwest of Madison. With Clyde’s help, he fixed it up and we moved there before Cindy, our fourth child, was born in September 1950.

Gail Martin Susan Owen June 1948

Gail Lee Martin with her first two children, Susan and Owen. Around 1947/48.

This is a segment of a memory piece that Gail wrote for her son. The complete post is on the Our Echo site.

Snow Memories from Childhood

(Memories by Virginia Allain, previously published on List My Five)

In my case, childhood was a good many years ago, but the memories are still vivid. My memories will vary from your own experience, so I challenge you to write your own list on this topic.

    • Walking Miles to School In Deep Snow –

      Actually, for us, it was only a quarter of a mile walk to where we met the school bus. It sure seemed a lot longer, but then our legs were pretty short back then. We trekked up the hill through drifts of snow, then waited by the highway with the wind whistling around us. Those were the days when girls wore dresses to school and that Kansas wind would whip up under the gathered skirts and freeze your knees.

    • Sliding on the Frozen Creek –

      The wind blew most of the snow off the ice, so we had great fun seeing how far we could slide. We didn’t have skates and it was only a small area, but it kept us amused. I’m sure we fancied ourselves accomplished skaters like the vintage pictures in the Currier and Ives book.

  • Snowball Fights –

    Our older brother could throw more powerfully and further than any of us, so our snowball fights were pretty one-sided. Many kids remember building snow forts for their snowball fights, but I don’t remember that.

  • Bringing In Firewood –

    We lived in the country and had a wood-burning stove, so wading through the snow for an armload of wood was an unwelcome chore. We kept a stockpile on the back porch but sometimes had to go out in the snow to replenish it. Returning with the wood, we stamped our feet on the porch to remove as much snow as possible. Still, we tracked some in on the linoleum that covered the floor in the big country kitchen.

    old stove

    A drawing by Karen Martin showing the black wood stove that heated that drafty farmhouse.

  • Taking Care of Our Pet Rabbits –

    When it snowed, it was also cold enough to freeze the water crocks in the rabbit hutches. What a chore it was to drag all the frozen, heavy crockery to the house to thaw and then return them to the hutches. Then we carried the buckets of water down to fill them. After school, the job often had to be repeated.

rabbit-hutches

Our rabbitry on a chill winter day. Fortunately, there was no snow on this particular day.